Mentoring undergraduate students in independent publishable research

Jennifer C. Prairie, University of San Diego, Environmental and Ocean Sciences, San Diego, CA, United States
Participation in research is an important way for undergraduate students to engage in science in a way that promotes critical thought and intellectual curiosity. In addition, undergraduate research has been shown to foster student success and retention in college and increase the likelihood that students pursue graduate degrees. Undergraduate research experience encompasses a range of formats, including summer programs, course-based research, and individual mentoring by graduate students. Here I discuss my experience in direct faculty mentoring of students at a primarily undergraduate institution. Specifically, I will discuss methods to help undergraduates carry out independent publishable research projects in this setting, even in just one to two years in the lab.

I will present techniques for mentoring undergraduates in independent research, including how to choose appropriately-sized projects, how to set manageable expectations in a way that allows for independent thinking and growth, and how to build a collaborative research group that takes advantage of opportunities for peer mentoring among undergraduate students. I will also address strategies for obtaining funding and resources for undergraduate research, and the benefit of having undergraduates present their work at national conferences. Lastly, I will discuss tips for publishing undergraduate research, which can be from multiple undergraduate projects, sometimes spanning multiple years.